I also visited a semi-active volcano close by continually sending out steam with a noise like a blast-furnace—quite enough to give me a conception of all other descriptions of volcanoes.
The lower parts of the mountains of Java, from 3,000 to 6,000 feet, have the most beautiful tropical vegetation I have ever seen. Abundance of splendid tree ferns, some 50 ft. high, and some hundreds of varieties of other ferns, beautiful-leaved plants as begonias, melastomas, and many others, and more flowers than are generally seen in the tropics. In fact, this region exhibits all the beauty the tropics can produce, but still I consider and will always maintain that our own meadows and woods and mountains are more beautiful. Our own weeds and wayside flowers are far prettier and more varied than those of the tropics. It is only the great leaves and the curious-looking plants, and the deep gloom of the forests and the mass of tangled vegetation that astonish and delight Europeans, and it is certainly grand and interesting and in a certain sense beautiful, but not the calm, sweet, warm beauty of our own fields, and there is none of the brightness of our own flowers; a field of buttercups, a hill of gorse or of heather, a bank of foxgloves and a hedge of wild roses and purple vetches surpass in beauty anything I have ever seen in the tropics. This is a favourite subject with me, but I cannot go into it now.
Send the accompanying note to Mr. Stevens immediately. You will see what I say to him about my collections here. Java is the richest of all the islands in birds, but they are as well known as those of Europe, and it is almost impossible to get a new one. However, I am adding fine specimens to my collection, which will be altogether the finest known of the birds of the Archipelago, except perhaps that of the Leyden Museum, who have had naturalists collecting for them in all the chief islands for many years with unlimited means.
Give my kind love to mother, to whom I will write next time.—Your affectionate brother,
ALFRED R. WALLACE.
* * * * *
TO G. SILK
Singapore. January 20, 1862.
My dear George,— ... On the question of marriage we probably differ much. I believe a good wife to be the greatest blessing a man can enjoy, and the only road to happiness, but the qualifications I should look for are probably not such as would satisfy you. My opinions have changed much on this point: I now look at intellectual companionship as quite a secondary matter, and should my good stars ever send me an affectionate, good-tempered and domestic wife, I shall care not one iota for accomplishments or even for education.
I cannot write more now. I do not yet know how long I shall be here, perhaps a month. Then ho! for England!—In haste, yours most affectionately,
ALFRED R. WALLACE.